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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 42: Split Your Work Among Multiple Desktops

Level Easy

Platform Windows, Mac OS X

Cost Free

The more space you have to lay out your materials, the easier it is to get a job done. Imagine a cook in a kitchen with restricted counter space. She has to remove the first ingredient from the refrigerator, put it on the counter, chop, measure, and add it to the recipe. To use more ingredients, she has to return the first to the refrigerator to make room for the second, and so on. But what if she had a larger countertop that could accommodate all the ingredients at one time? The chef could spend less time switching between ingredients and more time cooking.

The same concept applies to the amount of screen real estate you have on your computer monitor. Modern operating systems make multitasking with overlapping windows on one screen possible, but that requires some amount of task switching and window resizing to get to what you need. A second or even third monitor, however, gives you more space to work. A 2006 survey by Jon Peddie Research, cited in a New York Times article,4 showed that multimonitor computer setups can increase a computer worker’s productivity by 20 to 30 percent.

Microsoft Corporation founder Bill Gates splits his work onto three screens that make up one desktop: “The screen on the left has my list of emails. On the center screen is usually the specific email I’m reading and responding to. And my browser is on the right screen. This setup gives me the ability to ...

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